Yogi loves a mailbox. He could open and close that door for hours (or in toddler time, minutes) and never show any interest for what‘s inside. The mailbox itself is the destination while the actual mail is largely unimportant. This is something that I can relate to these days because although the contents of the mailbox have become increasingly disappointing as the years have gone by, I have many fond memories involving the mail.
A few days ago during our visit to the magic mailbox we were met with something unusual, an article of mail that was intended just for us. Yogi’s newly issued birth certificate had arrived! Following our successful second parent adoption, we requested an amended birth certificate that would reflect my new legal status as parent. This is (only) one of the places where living in the South makes life just a little more interesting. Instead of designating Park and myself as something reasonable like Parent and Parent or even the inherently problematic Parent #1 and Parent #2, our great state identifies Park in the Mother box and me in the Father box. Yup, you heard that right! I’m Yogi’s Daddy. The kid is in for it….
One thing I never expected to be was anyone’s father. How did sports-ambivalent, entirely non handy-around-the-house me end up here? I imagine I’ve found myself in the Father box because the legal system wasn’t sure where else to put me. I didn’t carry and birth the child, but I am raising him as my own with the woman who did do those things, so I must be the Dad, simple as that. Except of course, that it isn’t simple. Lucky for us, we know it.
One of the great things about being same-sex parents is that, relative to our hetero peers, my wife and I are free to create our own parenting niches based on who we are and what we have to offer our children. The kinds of Mommy/Daddy stereotypes and expectations that may drive a sports-ambivalent Dad out in the backyard, grudgingly tossing the football with his kid, have less power for same-sex couples. If Yogi needs some football tossing, we’ll certainly do it but it won’t be me solely because I’m the father. While it’s true that sometimes a roadmap can be reassuring, it’s also true that it’s hard not to take the same old route when you’ve got one. At my house, I cook the meals and play the roughest while Park does both the breastfeeding and the lawn maintenance. She makes a most delightful yard boy. The niches that we are each carving as Yogi’s parents are nuanced and complex, just as they are for every other set of parents, but perhaps our situation allows for just a touch more awareness that our roles are what we make them. Although we have been known to lament the absence of testosterone when it comes time to deal with a particularly hairy bug, we are reveling in the opportunity we have to create our family from scratch.
Alison Armstrong* is a Southern, Stay-at-home-Mom getting used to life outside of academia and raising a child, Yogi*, with her wife, Parker*. You can follow her family’s adventures at her blog, Love Invents Us.
*Names have been changed in order to honor a flair for the dramatic and to play nice with the family.